Jane Austen's Letters and The Cambridge Companion

The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen By Edward Copeland & Juliet McMaster

I have to admit from the outset here, that I am a confirmed Janeite, I have an Austen discussion list, and I have read Austen's novels over and over again. So that may well colour what you feel about this review. This book probably has a limited readership. Austen is still a popular author today - the string of recent movie adaptations and their wild popularity has proven that. It helps too that Austen's books can still be read these days and enjoyed without any help - after all language-wise there isn't slang and metre that puts people off Shakespeare - and her themes of love and marriage are pertinent to any age. Yet a companion like this is really useful for there were still little in-jokes which Austen uses - her contemporary readers would have understood these without further explanation, but for us we can do with a bit more background to the times she was living in. The most useful chapters for this are 7, 8 and 9 which deal with class, money and Religion and Politics. You don't need to read to understand, but if you want to enjoy Austen's irony in greater depth they make very useful reading. This is a neat little book if you are not sure if you want to read more on Austen either in Critical literature or biographically. It has 12 chapters in all which offer subjects ranging from the chronology of her life and work, to a good essay on her letters and style. I didn't much enjoy the chapter on Style but I was put off by the graphs in that one (don't ask!). You will pleased to know that this doesn't lack for academic credentials, but it isn't too forcefully academic. I don't think you would enjoy this book at all if you haven't read all of Austen's works, and have some idea of their various characters. So, if you are looking for a handy little volume and a quick read on Austen, her life and times then this is very worthwhile indeed. Other books on Austen that might you enjoy are Claire Tomalin's biography Jane Austen - a life which is excellent. Amanda Vickery's book The Gentleman's Daughter is a beautifully researched and written piece on woman's lives in Austen's time and of Austen's class (even using some of her letters). List Price: £15.99 Publisher: Cambridge University Press ISBN: 0521498678 Jane Austen's Letters By Jane Austen, Deirdre Le Fey (Editor) Proving that Austen was as fun and readable in her everyday letters as she was in her novels. These letters (about 160 of them) are great fun to read. The biting wit of her novels is clearly evident here. As pretty much most people know Jane Austen was incredibly close to her sister Cassandra and most of these letters are from Jane to Cassandra while they were separated. After Jane's death Cassandra destroyed goodness knows how many of Jane's letters and all of her own - so this small collection is all that is left - along with some to her neices and other family members. The collection was first put together in the 1930's by Chapman, but Le Faye has uncovered a few more since then (as I understand it). The book is great value for money. Le Faye has done a phenomemal job in providing all the support information you will need to read and understand any aspect of the letters. They are footnoted clearly. There is a biographical and Topographical index in here - along with a chronology of Jane's life, and a chronology of the letters themselves - and if all else fails there is a comprehensive index. For the history buff there is a great amount of really useful everyday infomration - for instance in 1813 apples were scarce in the country and cost 1 pound 5 shillings a sack. And insight into Jane herself - in April 1811 she is searching for a novel called 'Self Control' but says "I am always afraid of finding a clever novel too clever." Perhaps something that guided her own writing. Over 600 pages of great value reading, pure pleasure and wealth of information. Buy new hardback version online here! List Price: £25 Publisher: Oxford ISBN: 0192832972 Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information